Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Roast Beef Sandwich Bento

Here is the bento Jim took to work today. It is a simple sandwich bento but still fun. I have noticed that every time I take a bento photo on my butcher block surface it looks washed out. The darker woods really make the food pop. Next time the photo will look much better.

The main lunch box contained:
Roast Beef Sandwich with swiss cheese and horseradish mustard
Grape spears (which looked a little like olives, but I assure you, they are not.)

The secondary box contained:
Carrot Bits
Spice Cookies

Nothing special but a little different as far as the over all look. I'm still figuring out how to make bento-wiches look fun. Like I said, I'm still working on it...

On an unrelated side-note: Jim and I went engagement ring shopping last night. I cannot contain my excitement! :-)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Top 10 Bento Accessories

Since I don't have any new bento lunches to show anyone, I figured I would do a list of all the more popular bento accessories. Here you can read and see what people use to create the fun and cute bento boxes that have been found all over the internet. Some are tools that are used in construction of the boxes, others are simple decorative accessories to make the food look even more appealing. All of these pictures are just examples found at Ichiban Kan.

1. Baran Food Dividers 

Jungle up your bento with some bento grass, good for keeping your dry snacks dry and your saucy bits out of your plain bits, and great for whipping up your own original bento art creations.
These come in a variety of shapes and colors and some even feature cartoon characters like the Clickity Click animals and Hello Kitty.

2. Food Picks

These food picks are shaped to make food look more attractive to kids. By inserting the picks, cherry tomatoes become balloons, carrots turns into flowers and so on. Other picks have animals on top or are shaped like food or characters. Generally speaking they are mini utensils to keep small foods together or make little pieces easier to eat.

3. Paper or Aluminum Food Cups

These disposable food cups act like the food dividers only they have a bit more cup-like qualities. You can separate slightly moist foods from dry foods easily with these. Also, with paper and aluminum cups clean up is simple because you can just toss the mess. I use muffin tins as food cups and they work great!

4. Silicon Food Cups

Similar to the previous cups, these are made of silicon. They can bend to form shapes around the rest of the bento lunch and can be washed and reused.

5. Sauce Bottles

These are really great for very liquidly sauces like soy sauce or oil & vinegar because the little spout allows you to pour out the contents. These little bottle can stay plain or you can use the stickers to turn them into penguins. Also, these bottles come with a little cap to make sure they stay sealed during travel.

6. Condiment Bottles

These can be used for liquid sauces (like previously mentioned) but I like to use mine for thicker sauces like salad dressings and BBQ sauce. They can be easily squeezed to release their sauce so its easier to use with thicker stuff.

7. Food Cutters

The mini food cutter molds can be used to punch out shapes from fish cake, carrots, cucumbers, and other veggies. These come in lots of shapes and sizes.

Also included in the set is reusable plastic sheet that can be used as a template to create a picture of a car when filled with chopped egg, cooked ground meat, rice, etc.

8. Boiled Egg Molds

With this mold, it is so fun to make and eat boiled eggs! This set shapes eggs into rabbits and bears. Works best with the L size eggs. Just plop a warm hard boiled egg in the mold and press the halves together. After a 10 minute cold water bath the egg expands to form the shape! What fun!

9. Rice Molds

Fun rice molds are the essential tool for creating those yummy looking bento lunches! Easy to use and fun to decorate. These molds also come in all shapes and sizes for all appetites. Just fill the molds with rice, use the press to mold it into place and pop it out. You can then decorate the rice shapes with veggies, fruit, or nori.

10. Seaweed Cutters

With one punch you get 2 eyes and a smily mouth to place on vegetables or rice balls. Just use nori, or dried seaweed sheets like paper and place the little face in the lunch. You can find many shapes for these punches including other faces, animals, and shapes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Turkey Wrap Bento

I haven't really had much time lately to blog about bentos. That's mainly because I have only made two since the last blog, but also because Jim bought a new house recently. Since the move we have been spending every bit of time we have working on the house, furniture shopping, painting, and cleaning. Jim's lunches have been falling by the wayside because I may or may not be there in the morning to pack them (I have not officially moved in yet and Jim thinks making himself a turkey sandwich is easier for him). We also don't really have a good arsenal of bento supplies, and it is not really taking priority yet. 

Also, not having a digital camera here is hindering my bento documentation. However, I do have my built in laptop webcam camera to take pictures, but the quality suffers dramatically. Believe me, better bentos and images will follow.

The main lunch box contained:
Turkey Wrap made with olive oil mayo, onion powder, deli turkey, lettuce, and tomato. I would typically toast it, but since he's not eating it warm, I didn't bother.

The secondary box contained:
• Garden Salsa Sun Chips

The side container contained:
• Fresh Home-made Garden Salsa for dipping his wrap.

This bento isn't glorious, but with a new house and new kitchen I'm starting small and working my way back up again. Hopefully I will have more supplies soon. Jim has begun working from home 3 days a week so my bento-ing will probably only happen on Tuesday and Thursday when he commutes. That should give me the stamina to make excellent lunches more regularly...hopefully.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Anti-theft Lunch Bag

This is quite an idea. Sherwood Forlee, a self proclaimed designer, has come up with an ingenious idea for keeping co-workers out of your lunch bag.

As stated on his Anti-theft Lunch Bag webpage,
Stealing your co-worker's lunch is a downright contemptible act, that is, if it's perpetrated by someone other than you. But, if you've ever had your lunch stolen, you know the the frustration and anger it causes. You know the revenge and ill-will it inspires. And you know that no matter how well you try to hide your lunch bag at the back of the refrigerator, something's gonna be missing when you open it. Well, lament no more. The Anti-Theft Lunch Bag to the rescue . . .

Anti-Theft Lunch Bags are regular sandwich bags that have green splotches printed on both sides. After your sandwich is placed inside, no one will want to touch it.

Here is why no one will want to touch it.



If you are interested in owning one or more of these "moldy" bags, you can email skforlee(at)gmail . com and he will let you know when they become available.

These bags remind me of ThinkGeek's, Atomic Food Containers (see image at right). Imagine packing a bento using all this fun "hands-off" gear. I'm not sure you'd have an appetite left for lunch.

Japanese Fried Rice Bento

I'm not exactly sure where the name of the main dish comes from considering its not Japanese nor fried rice. Maybe at one time you did fry the rice for this recipe, but that has long since been forgotten as this quick and easy recipe was passed down through my family.

To make the "fried rice" is simple and quite tasty. Slice carrots into coins and slice a few onions. Cook some rice while you fry the vegetables together in a skillet with some olive oil. Cut into strips a cooked leftover piece of meat (we had leftover roast from Sunday). Toss the meat in the vegetable mixture last (add oil as needed) and cook until warm through out. Mix the whole thing together with the rice and serve with soy sauce. It is excellent and uses up leftover meat.

This bento was for my mother. Jim's Monday bento wasn't photographed because it wasn't very pretty and we were in the process of moving Jim into his new home so we didn't have a camera. I must admit though, my photography is getting better.

The main lunch box contained:
• Leftover Japanese Fried Rice
• 2 fish full of lower sodium Soy Sauce

The secondary box contained:
• Sliced Plum
• Fresh Blueberry spears
Cocoa dusted Almonds

The drink was:
• Fresh Fruit Smoothie made with mango, blueberries, plum, and V8 V-Fusion Light (not pictured)

As you can see, kind of, I did attempt to make a little scene in this bento. I tried to make the main bento into an aquarium. The rice is the water, the carrots are supposed to be the gravel, the meat slices are attempting to look like seaweed or plants, and the little soy sauce bottles are the fish...well, I tried.

Also, I would like to note, that I used white Jasmine rice. You could use healthier brown rice (which is how my mother always made it) but I was in a time crunch and every minute counted.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Visual Omnivore’s Hundred

Very Good Taste posted a blog about the 100 foods that every good omnivore should try in their lifetime. This meme has been traveling the internet with an interesting list of 100 strange and common delicacies from all around the globe. The point of all this is to paste the list on your personal blog after you make bold the foods you have tried, and cross out the ones you would never try. Use this as a jumping point for a truly uniques culinary experience. Learn about other cultures and cuisines, and test the limits of your tastebuds.

Because I enjoyed this list, I have compiled a "Visual Omnivore's Hundred" of all the food mentioned in the list in a set over at Flickr. I have credited all of the original photograph locations, added descriptions of the foods, and recipes where I could. So if you are curious about any of the food mentioned, head over there an take a look at all the beautiful food!

Here is the original Very Good Taste's blog post with directions:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

I have made bold all the of the food I have eaten as per the instructions. I didn't cross any out because...well, none of them were unappetizing. Several of these I know I have had but I am not marking them because I used to eat them when I was younger and no longer remember what they taste like (ie. Black Pudding, Haggis, Hare etc.)

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I have also added a few bonuses to the list of food that I believe should be tried by every good omnivore, including:

101. Bison
102. Emu Steaks
103. Chinese or Mongolian Hot Pot
104. Popcorn with Nutritional Yeast
105. Kimchi
106. Bird's Nest Soup

This set has taken me days to compile due to my need to find accurate representations and high quality photographs. If you have tried any of these, want to try them, or want to share what any of them taste like please comment here or at Flickr! Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spaghetti Bento

Leftovers reign in my household again. I had leftover spaghetti sauce from Friday's dinner. However, all of the leftover cooked wheat spaghetti was gone, so I took a quick 8 min to cook up some fresh pasta before packing this bento. While that was cooking, I cut up the apple. I tried to make this box a little more bento-y by spearing some fresh blueberries. Not having any of those fun picks (and the fact that this was for my 26 year old boyfriend) I decided to use plain wooden toothpicks. Its fun without being cute.

The sauce is actually a standard basil tomato sauce dressed up a bit. I added hot italian sausage, sauteƩ mushrooms, fresh basil, garlic, and a little brown sugar.

The main lunch box contained:
• Leftover Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

The secondary box contained:
• Sliced Apple (I also threw a travel Peanut Butter cup in his bento bag for dipping the apples)
• Fresh Blueberry spears
Cheddar Cheese chunk

The under-the-lid dessert was:
Dark Chocolate square
Dark Chocolate with Pomegranate square
Dark Chocolate with Blueberries, Cranberries, and Almonds square

I also tried something different with the photography. I think it looks much better thank some of my previous photos. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

BBQ & Campfire Bento

Happy day after Labor day everyone! We had so much good food at our Labor Day celebration that there was plenty left over. We had BBQ spare ribs, cole slaw, stuffed jalapenos, chips, cheese, crackers, watermelon, fresh peach pie, and s'mores. It was a fantastic day full of family, food, and well, video games, because I wasn't feeling to hot. However, Jim and I played on his Wii and we relaxed, so all in all, it was a nice day off. Today's bento was for Jim and it is a post BBQ and campfire fun themed bento!

The main lunch box contained:
BBQ Spare Ribs (made with honey bbq)
• Extra BBQ Sauce in the sauce container
Cole Slaw
• Mini "campfire cut out" Cheddar Cheese bites

The secondary box contained:
• Fresh Watermelon
Lime-chili cashews

The under-the-lid dessert was left over from out campfire s'mores.
Hershey's bar

I just packed it and sent it with him to work this morning, so he has yet to eat it. I hope everything is ok. Some was a little messy.